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From Alpha to Legends: Top 10 Crazy Artifacts September 10, 2012

Posted by James in : all, random , trackback

I remember a time when I’d throw random artifact cards in my decks just because that was the kind of thing to do back then. Magic wasn’t about winning as much as it was about playing fun cards and twiddling your thumbs. This post is in homage to the nostalgic wonderful days of being a silly Magic player for those of us who experienced such a thing. There is something good about seeing Magic that way, but a lot of these artifacts are too powerful, too weak, or too complicated.

Perhaps one day Wizards of the Coast will start making more crazy artifacts like these except make sure they are balanced properly. Perhaps one day competitive Magic will be a little less about playing overpowerered cards so that fun cards can make a difference to the game without being imbalanced. The fact that Trading Post has made it to into standard events might be a good sign.

I will list the ten artifacts that I think are crazy yet interesting from Alpha, Arabian Nights, Antiquities, or Legends. None of these cards are properly balanced. They are all either too powerful or not powerful enough. (If I did list properly balanced artifacts, then Winter Orb would have made the list.)

1. Chaos Orb

chaos orb

Chaos Orb is overpowered, relies on dexterity, and is completely silly when it destroys a whole stack of cards. Even so, there is a sense that it’s fun. I personally don’t look forward to seeing anything like this in a competitive tournament, but I can’t help but like the card anyway.

Chaos Orb also uses one of the best pieces of artwork ever put on a Magic card.

2. Time Vault

time vault

Time Vault is a terrible card by itself, and it’s good with Twiddle. The real problem is when you find a way to get unlimited turns with it. That originally required Instill Energy and Animate Artifact. (Those are also fun cards, but terrible by themselves.)

3. Mirror Universe

mirror universe

Mirror Universe is also a bit weak by itself and potentially quite good with other cards. It was great with Lich and there used to be a way to kill yourself before switching life totals. If anything like this is ever made again, then the cost could be lower because it’s so hard to use it well.

4. Illusionary Mask

illusionary mask

Illusionary Mask is perhaps the most complicated Magic card ever made and almost no one can read it and understand what it does. Let me explain what it does:

  1. You can now cast creatures face down.
  2. You can now pay extra mana when casting creatures.
  3. If for any reason you need to know the power or toughness of the creature, turn it face up.

What’s the point? One, the opponent won’t know if they should counter your creature. Two, you can avoid triggered effects that happen when the creature enters the battlefield. For example, it’s used with Phyrexian Juggernaut. Illusionary Mask was only really used for the first reason when it was first printed and it was under-powered. It can now be over-powered. It wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for the fact that it can help you get 12/12 creatures for one mana each.

5. Ring of Ma ‘Ruf

ring of ma ruf

Ring of Ma ‘Ruf isn’t as awesome now that we have Wishes. It was a bad card at the time because it costs ten mana to get you a card, and perhaps one day something similar will be made with a lower cost. You shouldn’t have to pay more than five mana to get a card.

6. Aladdin’s Lamp

aladdin's lamp

Aladdin’s Lamp might be the worst card on this list because it’s almost impossible to cast. I think I did cast it once in my life and it was a bit anti-climatic. Even so, the ability is quite interesting and something like this for zero mana might be worth playing.

7. Gauntlets of Chaos

Gautlets of Chaos is similar to Switcharoo, but you can trade different kinds of permanents with it. The idea of this card is a lot of fun, but it’s way too expensive. Ten mana is way too much for an effect like this. It would be worth playing if it only required four or five mana instead.

8. Mana Matrix

mana matrix

Mana Matrix has a potentially powerful effect, but six mana is still too much for it. It might be worth playing for three or four mana. And I love the art used for this card. Crazy artifacts should be mysterious things you find in a dungeon like this.

9. Jade Monolth

jade monolith

Jade Monolith’s effect is very weak and four mana for this artifact is much too high. For zero mana it would probably be worth paying. The effect is similar to regeneration, but it’s much more painful.

10. Ebony Horse

ebony horse

Ebony Horse is the original Maze of Ith, but it’s much weaker because you can’t target the opponent’s permanents. I don’t think this would be worth playing unless it cost zero mana to cast ad activate. Keep in mind that you have to tap Ebony Horse to use it. If it could be activated multiple times, then it would be much better as well.



1. Alex Cuevas - September 10, 2012

I’m disappointed that Ice Cauldron is not on this list

2. Michael - September 10, 2012

They did make 2 pseudo reprints of Mirror Universe. Magus of the Mirror and Soul Conduit.

One is a 6 mana 4/4 that works basically like MU does. The other is a 6 mana artifact that lets you switch 2 player’s life totals for a cost of 6, T.

I guess there is also that White sorcery from Kamigawa block that also acts like a MU.

3. James - September 11, 2012

Ice Cauldron didn’t exist back then.

I knew there was Magus of the Mirror but it was strictly worse in every sense. They could make a better Mirror Universe.

4. Michael - September 12, 2012

What about Soul Conduit and Reverse the Sands?

Soul Conduit lets you mess with 2 players at a time and Reverse lets you mess with everyone at the same time.

5. James - September 12, 2012

Yes, those are something like Mirror Universe but worse.